'Friday' is a "hood film" that refuses to give in to the typical rules of the subgenre, instead bringing the lighter side of neighborhood life to the big screen. It's more of a buddy comedy with a slacker twist, revealing the oddball and eccentric characters who reside in the neighborhoods of South Central. Written by Ice Cube, famed rapper from N.W.A, with long-time friend DJ Pooh, the film is an inventively hilarious ensemble piece that works as a sharp contrast to movies with negative and often violent stereotypes of inner-city life. Growing up in the streets of Los Angeles is hard enough without every other movie serving as a reminder, so 'Friday' aims to entertain its audience rather than highlight some of the setting's frequently covered troubles.
Recently fired Craig (Ice Cube) wakes up one Friday morning to find everyone in his family hassling him for managing to lose his job while on his day off. To make matters worse, his father (John Witherspoon) warns him of the consequences of not finding a new job soon. It's one of the funnier and grosser scenes, as fatherly advice comes by way of loud gastro-grunts and an aerosol air freshener, while he tells Craig to follow in his footsteps as a dog catcher. Sound effects reinforce the nauseating discussion, while dry-heaves accompany the laughter. The entire sequence conjures a traumatic image which foreshadows the raunchy toilet humor throughout the film.
It's surprisingly well balanced, however, with a fairly strong subplot about surviving the neighborhood amidst all the violence and drugs, as revealed by the father's more astute observations once out of the bathroom. And Ice Cube, in his first comedic role, performs admirably as a young man still searching for himself and his place in life, while trying to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, and thanks in large part to his best friend Smokey (Chris Tucker) -- a character all too appropriately named -- the violence seems to find him. Through an act of guilt by association, Craig is involved in repaying a debt to local drug dealer Big Worm (Faizon Love), who also works part-time as an ice-cream dealer.
The remainder of 'Friday' is spent then figuring out ways of producing the money, meanwhile the two friends sit on the front porch and watch the comings and goings of the neighborhood. And this is where the real brilliance of the script comes through and the direction of F. Gary Gray, making his feature-length debut, keeps the narrative engaging and amusing. With the use of satirical and goofy comedy, the filmmakers subtly and skillfully deliver a social commentary on street life without feeling heavy-handed or forced. Just because the violence feels inescapable doesn't mean one has to succumb to it. Ultimately, Craig realizes that no matter the circumstance, there's always a choice.
Bringing the entire picture together is a great cast of characters. Developing a twitch after unknowingly smoking PCP, Chris Tucker's performance, of course, garners the most consideration, as he is the wildest and loudest of them all. But the bulking mass and former WWF adversary to Hulk Hogan, Tommy Lister, Jr., deserves an equal share of the attention as the neighborhood bully. Though on screen for a very short time, Bernie Mac as the clandestine Pastor is as memorable as they come. And anchoring the zaniness is the beautiful Nia Long, serving not only as the love interest but also to counterbalance the numerous depictions of women as sexual objects.
The Blu-ray release arrives as a Director's Cut, with an extra six minutes of footage. Fans are likely to notice the new additions, while those watching it for the first will be too busy laughing to even care. In either case, the film isn't greatly hindered by any of it and remains just as hilarious as ever. 'Friday' is an excellent comedy with positive intentions, portraying the hood with a genuine heart.
On DVD, 'Friday' never received the love it really deserved. That's not to say it looked terrible, but it never appeared all that good either. Arriving on Blu-ray as a Deluxe Edition, the 1080p/VC-1 transfer (1.85:1) finally gives the Ice Cube cult favorite the video treatment it's worthy of, with a comfortably bright and nicely detailed picture.
A thin veneer of grain coats the movie throughout and furnishes the presentation with a welcomed filmic quality. Granted, there are several occurrences of poor resolution, particularly in interiors scenes, but exterior shots fare much better, as facial complexions are rendered naturally and show great textures in close-up. Blacks are solid, and contrast is well-balanced, providing the image some decent depth and plenty of visibility in the shadows. There are also some minor, even negligible, instances of black crush, but nothing that completely takes away from the film's enjoyment. The color palette clearly benefits from the upgrade, exhibiting rich saturation and vivid hues. Overall, 'Friday' has held up well over the years and looks good on Blu-ray.
Warner/New Line releases the comedy hit with a surprisingly energetic Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, exhibiting excellent channel separation and convincing movement throughout the soundfield. This new track feels broad and inviting, creating a fresh take on the film's original design. As dialogue reproduction conveys clear, sharp vocals, the rest of the soundstage delivers a great deal of clarity and definition, with a satisfyingly precise mid-range. For a comedy, the surround speakers are highly active, filling the room with great atmospheric effects of the streets and a thumping low-bass for the musical tracks. At times, the mix can seem a bit artificial, but engineers have done a nice job of incorporating the various sounds well, offering fans an engaging and enjoyable lossless option.
For this Blu-ray Deluxe Edition, arriving simultaneously with the new DVD, Warner Bros./New Line offers a healthy amount of bonus material. Though nothing exclusive to the high-def format, it's an acceptable set of supplements.
At a time when the only films available about inner-city life were often filled with violent and negative portrayals, 'Friday' dared to show that life isn't all bad in the hood. Co-written and starring the famed rapper of N.W.A, Ice Cube, this comedy is a hilarious ensemble piece with a more endearing and positive message. The Blu-ray from Warner Brothers/New Line arrives as a Deluxe Edition with a very good audio video presentation and a nice collection of supplements. Fans looking to upgrade won't be sorely disappointed with this high-definition version.